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Lawmakers Reach A Bipartisan Agreement On Police Reform

Updated June 24, 2021 at 8:46 PM ET

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have reached a preliminary, bipartisan agreement on police reform after months of closely watched debate on the topic.

Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., announced the agreement on Thursday evening.

"After months of working in good faith, we have reached an agreement on a framework addressing the major issues for bipartisan police reform," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

"There is still more work to be done on the final bill, and nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. Over the next few weeks we look forward to continuing our work toward getting a finalized proposal across the finish line."

The exact details of the plan were not immediately clear.

The issue of reforming qualified immunity, to make it easier to sue police officers over allegations of brutality, had been a sticking point in negotiations. The police use of chokeholds was another debated provision.

The effort to reform U.S. policing comes after several years of increasing pressure to better understand and regulate the way officers interact with the communities they patrol.

The high-profile deaths of several Black people — many unarmed — at the hands of police — who have in some notable instances been white — have been the catalyst for the police reform movement.

The Democratic-led House had approved the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — named after one of those Black people killed by police — in early March, and President Biden had hoped Congress would pass the reform effort by the first anniversary of Floyd's death in late May.

But Bass had said then that getting "a substantive piece of legislation" is "far more important than a specific date."

Floyd's murderer, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, is set to be sentenced to prison on Friday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday that Biden "is grateful to Rep. Bass, Sen. Booker, and Sen. Scott for all of their hard work on police reform, and he looks forward to collaborating with them on the path ahead."

The topic of police reform has divided the nation across party lines, with progressives accusing the right of seeking to maintain an antiquated and all-too-powerful law enforcement apparatus. Conservatives say the left has blamed the actions of some officers on the institution itself, turning the topic of police support and "blue lives" into more ammunition for the ongoing culture war.

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Alana Wise joined WAMU in September 2018 as the 2018-2020 Audion Reporting Fellow for Guns & America. Selected as one of 10 recipients nationwide of the Audion Reporting Fellowship, Alana works in the WAMU newsroom as part of a national reporting project and is spending two years focusing on the impact of guns in the Washington region.
Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.